I’m not one to be too sappy, especially publicly, but this is a love letter I must share with you all. On the eve of Halloween, I've recently fallen for a Cyclops, and it’s going great. It’s not as interesting as you may think, though the unusual union happened suddenly, without warning. While proofreading the paper, I couldn’t help but notice an ad for a one-eyed black kitten named Ripley.
I immediately called the humane society and submitted my application. The next day I found myself perusing the pet aisle for everything I’d need for my little Cyclops — kitten chow, litter box, toys — before heading to Ripley’s house, where I decided to go through with the adoption, even though he didn’t pay much attention to me. He’s playing it cool, I thought.
He’d recently lost his left eye after his cornea ruptured due to an upper respiratory infection and had been fixed. To say he had a rough couple of weeks would be an understatement. Other than that, though, he was a healthy four-month-old kitten.
Some may see his ocular oddity as grotesque. What hellish world claims a kitty’s eye, you might say. I’d say it’s quite the opposite. Cyclopes can see the future, as they made a deal with Hades that cost them one of their eyes, leaving them with only one in the center of their foreheads, according to Greek mythology. Hesiod’s Cyclopes were also the blacksmiths of the gods, crafting thunderbolts for Zeus, an invisibility helmet for Hades and Poseidon’s trident.
In the month since my little Cyclops moved to Telluride, he hasn’t spent much time hovering over a hearth or prophesizing like some one-eyed Nostradamus, but he does have special powers, I must admit.
Whenever I lie down to read or rest, Ripley jumps onto my chest, and we lay face to face. As he purrs and plays with my beard, he’ll nudge his head forward and we’ll rub our noses together. I call this display of affection a Ripley kiss, and it’s one of the purest forms of love I’ve experienced, even when he wakes me up at 4 a.m. to give me one.
While I spend most of my days hunched in front of the work computer, Ripley sits next to me, rubs against my feet or rolls around the coffee table in front of the screen, particularly when he wants to get my attention. One busy workday I threw one of his mouse toys across the condo. He quickly ran after it, and within seconds, brought it back to my feet. Between editing and writing, I’d toss the mouse to different areas, and every time, Ripley brought it back to me. If I didn’t grab and throw it quickly enough for him, he’d meow and bite my big toe. I can’t believe it, I said to myself, he taught me how to play fetch. Now he knows to drop a toy on my toes whenever he wants to burn some kitty calories.
When I’m not on the clock, Ripley and I like to watch TV to relax. He enjoys sports, especially baseball and football. It’s funny to watch him follow the action so attentively, head bopping, ears twitching. When we’re watching the Steelers on Sunday I like to say he’s a black-and-gold cat.
Halloween season also means horror movies, and Ripley is coming around. He’s not immune to jump scares, so he’s more a fan of the black-and-white classics. We recently watched “Cat People.” He seemed to like Simone Simon’s shape-shifting character.
My Aunt Debbie, an avid animal lover and activist, told me I’ll start hating people now that I own a kitty. That’s already the case, I explained. We both laughed and continued to talk about the benefits of cats. But don’t take our word for it. For as much as he wrote about hangovers and hookers, Charles Bukowski can be viewed as a pseudo cat expert or oracle. He once linked our furry friends to immortality.
“The more cats you have, the longer you live. If you have a hundred cats, you’ll live ten times longer than if you have ten. Someday this will be discovered, and people will have a thousand cats and live forever.”
Maybe people with a legion of cats aren’t “crazy” after all.
There’s a whole book of Bukowski’s cat musings.
Like this, “Having a bunch of cats around is good. If you're feeling bad, just look at the cats, you'll feel better, because they know that everything is, just as it is.”
My little Cyclops blinks his phantom eye as I chuckle to myself over such quotes. To think, some people believe black cats are bad luck. It’s a uniquely Western myth, as black cats are considered good luck in Japanese culture. Ironically, the Greeks are the ones responsible for casting felines with black fur in such an unfavorable light.
During the time of gods and monsters, Hera, Zeus’ wife, turned her servant Galinthias into a black cat as punishment after she tried to hinder the birth of Hercules. Galinthias then went to work for Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft, and black cats have gotten a bad rap ever since.
I look at Ripley and smile. That’s funny, I tell him, in my experience, it’s the blondes and their two big blue eyes that have always been the harbingers of horror and hardship.